Amanda & Merrill

Our Co-founder's Ultimate Guide to Quarantine

Chock-full of ideas for recipes to cook, games to play, and ways to care for your family and community.

May  2, 2020
Photo by Merrill Stubbs - Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter

Like much of the world, I’ve been in isolation for weeks with my family. My husband goes grocery shopping every Monday evening (when there seem to be fewer shoppers); we do a pickup from a local restaurant every Thursday night; and we’ve yell-chatted from fifty feet away with some friends who live nearby. Otherwise, we’ve had almost no contact with others.

I’ve spent a good portion of every day feeling very thankful, and incredibly lucky. So many lives have been lost, and many many more turned upside down, because of COVID-19, while the biggest challenges I've faced have been adjusting to working from home, overseeing my kids' virtual learning, and deciding what to make for dinner.

In the moments when guilt starts to creep into my consciousness, I try to remind myself that it’s unproductive even when things are great, let alone during a crisis. Any time I spend wallowing is wasted time. My job is to take care of my family, a business I believe is actually helping people, and others who are suffering far more than I am.

One thing is certain: I could not do that job right now if it weren’t for the wisdom and creativity of other people. So many of the rituals we’ve adopted to add structure to our daily routine, so many of the games and projects we’ve been doing to fill our time and keep from biting each other’s heads off, so many of the amazing organizations and resources we’ve learned about, have come from others—primarily through Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, video calls with colleagues and friends, Houseparty chats, email newsletters, or some other digital source. (Isn’t it funny that the internet, lately painted as the death of real human connection, is now the primary tool we all have to stay connected?)

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Top Comment:
“I'm so sorry for your loss, just as I am for the losses that so many others have suffered. My mother was recently hospitalized with multiple blood clots in each of her lungs, a complication related to COVID. We're all trying to stay positive, expressing our gratitude on a daily basis for all that we have, and hoping for the best. ”
— Merrill S.

Regardless of reopening timelines, it’s likely we’ll all be spending a lot more time at home for the foreseeable future. In the spirit of paying it forward, I thought I’d share some of the things we’ve been doing in hopes they might be helpful to someone else.

I've organized everything into three buckets, although several could fit into more than one: Ways to get food on the table, ways to pass the time (and stay sane), and ways to help others. I’ve been taking a lot more photos than usual so that we never forget this time—as precious as it is painful—and I’ll share some of them here.

To get food on the table, I’ve been...

Country loaves, you'll soon meet butter. Photo by Merrill Stubbs
Homemade ricotta is some joyous stuff. Photo by Merrill Stubbs
Some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever had, from Mud City restaurant in Manahawkin, NJ. Photo by Merrill Stubbs
Pizza night! Photo by Merrill Stubbs
Fluffy pancakes and crispy bacon are what's for dinner. Photo by Merrill Stubbs
Sticky, saucy, so-delicious ribs. Photo by Merrill Stubbs
  • Delegating grill/smoker duty to my husband on a regular basis. He made some delicious smoked ribs using Jake Levin’s excellent barbecue rub from his cookbook, Smokehouse Handbook.

To pass the time (& stay sane), I’ve been...

  • Taking socially distant beach walks. We try to get to the beach—which has been quiet—most days for a stroll and some play time, collecting shells and other treasures to bring home for craft projects and building stick huts.
Look who we found at the beach! Photo by Merrill Stubbs
The sturdiest stick hut. Photo by Merrill Stubbs
  • Making window art.

  • Cultivating a kitchen garden from seeds and vegetable scraps.

Window art, ready to be proudly displayed. Photo by Me
Look at them go—er, grow! Photo by Me
  • Assembling fruit monsters, thanks to wonderful, quirky Curious Jane.

  • Puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles! We love lighthouses, and our favorite so far is a Lighthouses of New Jersey puzzle.

The scariest green apple monster there ever was! Photo by Me
Our lighthouse puzzle masterpiece. Photo by Me
  • Following our friend Erica Cerulo's IG stories, which are chock-full of adorable animal photos guaranteed to improve your mood.

  • Building epic train tracks that go all around our living room (maneuvering around lots of pillow-and-blanket forts).

Round and round it goes.
A fort that's fit for adventure.
  • Taking lots of baths. I’ve always enjoyed a nice hot bath, and recently it’s really become a ritual. I always add something to make the bath smell nice and keep my skin from drying out. Since my stock of bath salts and oils has been waning rapidly, I’ve started making my own bath salts using different essential oils.

  • Sampling a host of new beauty products, thanks to my friend Jessica Richards of Shen Beauty, who sent me a massive care package along with my order of some face cream.

Bath supplies, reporting for duty.
The bounty from Shen beauty.
  • Reading for my now-virtual book club. Next up: Lady in Waiting. For fans of The Crown, this is the autobiography of Anne Glenconner, lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, who featured prominently in season 3 of the show.

  • Finally getting a DOG! Scooter, a thirteen-week old Cavachon puppy, arrived a couple weeks ago and already, we can’t imagine life without him.

The one and only Scooter!
Tuckered out after a long day.

To help others, I’ve been...

  • Supporting small businesses. I’ve tried to source as many ingredients and supplies as possible from places like Janie's Mill (for organic flours and grains), The Rice Factory (for specialty Japanese rice and pantry items), and our local family-owned grocer for staples, prepared foods and deli items.
Janie's Mill golden-yellow cornmeal...
...which went into tender, buttery cornbread.
  • Sending food to healthcare workers. Many restaurants that have stayed open for delivery are offering ways for anyone to purchase and donate food to local hospitals. Mexicue has taco kits available for donation if you order online; JJ Johnson’s rice spot, Field Trip, is offering the option to purchase meals for first responders; Mimi Cheng’s has a GoFundMe page where you can donate to “Dumplings for Doctors,” and help provide meals and drinks to hospital workers.

  • Volunteering and/or donating food and supplies to help those in need. There are new opportunities every day, but here are some great organizations to consider:

The recently launched America’s Food Fund is working with World Central Kitchen, Feeding America, and several other national organizations to help ensure that all Americans have reliable access to food.

Save With Stories is offering story readings on Instagram and Facebook to entertain kids at home and raise money for Save the Children and No Kid Hungry, two orgs that are providing food and educational resources to kids in need across the US and beyond.

NY Common Pantry is dedicated to reducing hunger in NYC and has distributed more than 300,000 meals to date during the COVID-19 crisis.

In It Together NYC connects healthy New Yorkers with food pantries at risk of closing due to lack of volunteers.

Wellness in the Schools typically partners with public schools across the US to create “healthier environments for children to learn and grow;” they are now diverting resources in order to feed thousands of people a week in NYC.

Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fun, newly launched by First Lady Lauren Baker and One8 Foundation, has raised $23M to support Massachusetts residents most impacted by the crisis, including essential workers, homeless and food insecure populations, and working families in need.

Greater Chicago Food Depository is Chicago’s food bank, a hub for more than 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs providing nutritious food for hungry people.

What have you been doing with your families during quarantine? Let us know in the comments.
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


Sigita June 22, 2020
A lovely and well written piece and helpful to put things in perspective , already a few months into this pandemic reality. I think everyone should sit down and write down their new routines- it would help us to see that humans do adjust and those of us who enjoy cooking and baking - have tried new things , ran out of ingredients and repeated family favorites weekly for the sake of sanity. Thanks Merrill.
hi i have been reading your emails for bout 3 years now and just want to say i really enjoy reading them as their very helpful and each email is unique and covers wide range of topics....this last one was awesome!!!thanku....pls stay safe xo leah
Merrill S. June 19, 2020
Thank you so much, Leah! Be well.
Martha S. May 11, 2020
Thanks for this. Idea to share under the “helping people” section. Undocumented workers in our community have lost jobs as dishwashers in local restaurants. They have families to support, are ineligible for benefits, and essentially unemployable. Support a family. Start a fund through Go Fund Me, or work through a church or social services organization. These neighbors are desperate, and have cheerfully and gratefully cleaned up after us for years. And it’s likely that one of their family members is a home health care worker caring for someone you know
Amy May 11, 2020
Thank you. Sorry for all losses - of people, of Spring, of whatever we thought our lives would have been during this time. Food52 puts a smile on my face, great recipes in my kitchen and products in my home. Thank you founders and staff!!
Merrill S. June 19, 2020
Thank you, Amy!
abbyarnold May 11, 2020
Hi Merrill! I had the pleasure of meeting you in Venice, CA just before the quarantine brought me inside. That little pop-up reception was one of the last times I was out in a group setting. It is fun to see how you and your family are living through this time, and your beach walks are inspiring me to figure out a way to spend more time at least looking at the ocean from the top of my hill--the beach itself is closed for now. In the meantime, I'm cooking my way through my freezer and pantry. Sending you all good wishes!
Merrill S. June 19, 2020
Abby, so sorry for the delayed response. It was wonderful to meet you at Pop Up Grocer (one of the last times I was out in a group as well). Best wishes to you as well.
Jamie May 10, 2020
Hello Merrill and Amanda,
Thank you for sharing your stories, recipes and continuing to provide the best looking and most useful products on your website. Food 52 has been a lifeline of peace, joy and normalcy for me these past few months. I have especially enjoyed the videos of meals and baked goods, made by you all in your homes doing exactly what we are all doing- no make- up or blown out perfect hair just real moments of trying to do our best and feed good food to ourselves and families...and have a little fun while doing it! I have been stocking up on your beautiful glasses, vases and bowls in hopes to make my home prettier and my kitchen more streamlined, and also in hopes we will be able to have friends over again soon. I am mostly grateful for you, for making my home warmer and more inviting for my family. When I want to hide and get personal space, at least my kids can enjoy our fresh looking new glasses while I peruse Food52 and try to learn how to cook. I don’t always love cooking but it’s A LOT more enjoyable when you like your gear. Wishing you all good health & sanity. Happy Mother’s Day!
Merrill S. June 19, 2020
Jamie, I'm so sorry for the belated response -- thank you for your lovely comment, and hope you and your family are staying well.
debplusthree May 10, 2020
Merrill, thank you so much for encouraging all of us when you are facing such a hard trial yourself, I will pray for your mom, that she is completely healed. I am grateful for all that you do, and I am thankful for the amazing community that you and Amanda have built, it has been a great blessing during this unprecedented season. God bless you.
Merrill S. June 19, 2020
Apologies for the late reply, and thank you so much for your kind words.
Kathleen May 10, 2020
This was such a welcome gift in my inbox this morning! Thank you so much, Merrill! Our adult children are home with us now, and we've done some fun projects together! We converted our garage to a home gym...sanity restored! My kids have helped me create drama lesson videos for my students that are now on YouTube. We've been curating family movie or family game nights with themes, and we have dinner together every night! Through all the madness, it has been a joy to have this precious time with family!
Alice H. May 10, 2020
Kathleen, I so relate. my kids are 25 and 20 and home with us, the older one is working remote and the younger just completed her last final exam. We have been cooking up a storm from here, watching the Bon Appetite Test Kitchen Videos, all doing the NYT crossword and their cooking site, puzzles, walks in the woods, it is the most time we have spent together and we've had more family dinners with the four of us at the table than we've had since the older one left for college in 2013. Amazing! Precious is the exact right word. Being thankful for this time is part of my gratitude practice. I wish we had a place for a home gym!
Merrill S. June 19, 2020
Kathleen, thank you for your kind note, and so glad you're enjoying the time with your family -- it is a precious gift during an incredibly difficult time.
Vanessa G. May 10, 2020
Thanks so much, Merrill! I really appreciate the new resources and vendors you mention in this article - finally got some quality rice ordered after horrible experiences with price gouging online.
Merrill S. June 19, 2020
So glad to hear this, Vanessa. Be well.
Alice H. May 10, 2020
Pretty much everything at Food52 is amazing, and I totally relate to the "thinking of what to make for dinner". My husband and I are empty nesters and usually travel all the time so we have gone from hardly ever cooking to cooking for 4 (our grown kids are home with us) every day. A meal plan would be great! If you offered something like that even for a fee or subscription, it'd be so cool.
Zoe H. May 10, 2020
Alice, have you checked out the Food 52 book, a New Way to Dinner? It’s basically organized as a week’s worth of meal plans.
Alice H. May 10, 2020
Awesome thought! I'll get it.
David May 10, 2020
I have always had a liking for corn bread -- mostly 'cause the plan to make it provides me a chance to cook lovely, crispy bacon for its fat content that my recipe requires. So far though it had not occurred to me to tweak my corn meal usage to anything else; that changed the other day as a random recollection flitted through my much-isolated brain of big John Wayne reaching into his saddle pack to share trail rations with young Mattie Ross -- corn dodgers! I, myself, am planning a major hike in early September and have been considering trail food and the frugal approach to assembling it. Parched corn is one dominant item and it was a minute shift to mind-slip to dodgers. There exists out there on the Web a surprising mythos around just exactly what should be a "corn dodger" ... savoury or sweet or buck-naked plain, risen or unleavened, fried or baked or boiled ... variations abound. And, I chose mine -- gobsmackingly delicious 3-inch biscuit-loaves slathered in maple syrup, bacon on the side. For the trail, for now through my living room. Tweak as you dream.
AntoniaJames May 4, 2020
What are we doing? Grieving. My husband's sister was stricken and died, so suddenly (a blessing of sorts, I guess), 2 weeks ago. Merrill, you are so fortunate. I don't think I saw gratitude as one of your family activities. Perhaps you might consider that. ;o)
P.S. We're also cycling here in the stunning open spaces here in Boulder County, more than we've ever cycled before - both in terms of distance and frequency. It's still early spring here, but spectacularly beautiful. We've never been as happy as we are now, that we moved out of New York City, and then out of the SF Bay Area. All things considered, we are so, so fortunate. And yes, gratitude is (and has been for decades) consciously part of our daily lives.
Nancy May 4, 2020
AJ - So sorry to hear your news. Consolations and good memories to you, your husband and your sister in law's family.
Nancy in Toronto.
Bevi May 5, 2020
AJ, I am so sorry for your family’s loss of a cherished family member. I hope the beauty of Boulder continues to bring you peace and joy to ease the sting of a sudden void.
AntoniaJames May 5, 2020
Thank you, Bevi and Nancy. Your kindness means so much to me. And yes, we're finding solace riding sometimes alone and sometimes together through the seemingly endless open spaces here, under this magnificent - very big - sky, the front range of the Rockies ever present. (Have you read Gretel Ehrlich's essays in "The Solace of Open Spaces"? I recommend them. Visually, her Wyoming is not unlike our Colorado in many ways.) ;o)
Merrill S. May 5, 2020
I'm so sorry for your loss, just as I am for the losses that so many others have suffered. My mother was recently hospitalized with multiple blood clots in each of her lungs, a complication related to COVID. We're all trying to stay positive, expressing our gratitude on a daily basis for all that we have, and hoping for the best.
AntoniaJames May 5, 2020
Yes, staying positive is key. Gratitude goes a long way in making that not just easier, but possible. Wishing a speedy recovery for your mother. ;o)

creamtea May 5, 2020
AJ--so sorry for your loss of a beloved sister-in-law. I hope you and your husband will find consolation. It is good that you are surrounded by so much beauty in your new home.
Simple gratitude--a very good thing. My husband had COVID early on (he's an asthma doctor here in NYC). We too are feeling gratitude. We have many friends who have sustained the loss of a loved one. Merrill, wishing your mother a very speedy recovery.
Merrill S. May 8, 2020
Thank you so much, and very glad to hear your husband is ok.
Kitchen B. May 15, 2020
Sending you love, AJ x and yes, to gratitude, every day, consciously, deliberately, 'mediatively' x